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The world is being buffeted by multiple global crises that manifest themselves into a climate, financial, food, energy, institutional, cultural, ethical and spiritual crises. These are the manifestations of unbridled consumerism and a model of society where the human being claims to be superior to Mother Earth. It is a system characterized by the domination of the economy by gigantic trans-national corporations whose targets are the accumulation of power and benefits, and for which the market values are more important than the lives of human beings and Mother Earth. —Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, in Deidre Fulton, “Capitalism Is Mother Earth’s Cancer”1
The myth of this century permeating both Canadian and global consciousness is the myth of economic growth. It is central to Canadian consciousness, breeding the same response, the same mindset, and a pervasive concept of truth as produced within a singular worldview. This myth reaches the core of the evolution of Canada itself. Economics as a field has us blindly believing that corporations really do have the same status as human beings and places extraordinary belief in the invisible hand of the markets and the playing out of competition as the reason for social inequality and poverty. This global economic myth requires us to blindly believe that there is no credible alternative to the current global economic system. This myth frames for humanity a singular narrative that growth is good, necessary, positive, and natural, and that it is the definitive Global economic growth is set to slow dramatically answer and solution to progress and development. This is the illusion. The heart of this myth must be viewed through the illusory current state of national and global economics. It is well documented in recent years that the rate of global economic growth has slowed substantially.
A 2015 McKinsey Global Analytics report sets a serious warning: “Without action, global economic growth will almost halve in the next 50 years.”2 It notes that economic growth has been exceptionally rapid over the last 50 years, but that there is no consensus on prospects for the next 50 years.
This global economic downturn is an outcome of its own worldview. The 2008 economic crash set in motion the framing of a new narrative and approach to the global economy that aimed at the very center of economics itself. At the heart of this warning is the shaping of the emerging “new economy” as an alternative future that is based on measurements beyond GDP and focused on human well-being and ecological balance. This is a time of calling out both the state of and experience of the global economy system. A report on regenerative economy by the Capital Institute makes a fundamental point: “The current global reality is pressing up against social, environmental and economic collapse. The world needs to move beyond the standard choices of capitalism or socialism.”3 It further emphasized that the world economic system is closely related to and dependent upon the environment: “The failure of modern economic theory to acknowledge this reality has had profound consequences, not the least of which is global climate change.”4
The article “Beyond Capitalism and Socialism” highlights a key point that the post-2008 global economic crash saw an emergence of viewing economics through a new lens as a way to address this economic growth myth— mainly, economic growth and dependency on the environment cannot exist in siloes. Economics is converging upon itself— a product of its own worldview.5 The failure of modern economic theory to acknowledge this reality has had profound consequences, not the least of which is global climate change. The consequences of this economic worldview are vast and far reaching, encompassing a host of challenges that range from climate change to political instability.6
Economic Distortion: Addressing Dysfunctionality in the New Economy
In the words of Indigenous leader President Evo Morales, past president of Bolivia: The world is being buffeted by multiple global crisis that manifests itself in a climate, financial, food, energy, institutional, cultural, ethical and spiritual crisis. These are the manifestations of unbridled consumerism and a model of society where the human being claims to be superior to Mother Earth… It is a system characterized by the domination of the economy by gigantic trans-national corporations whose targets are the accumulation of power and benefits, and for which the market values are more important than the lives of human beings and Mother Earth.7
This is an honest reflection that points to the global economic crisis humanity is facing and calls out the foundation of economic dysfunction. It is from this questioning of economic power structures and pending collapse that a new economic movement has emerged— a paradigm shift so powerful as to redefine economy, to shift from destruction to construction, and facilitate a return to human values. What a powerful rendition of experience Fulton describes as caused from “the manifestions of unbridled consumerism.” From within the dominant economic worldview stems the fragmentation of reality, separateness, and isolation that originates with the divergence from the unity of life— the very cause of economic dysfunction. It is this response to the economic dysfunction that has caused the uprising of the new regenerative economy movement.
The term new economy is broad reaching and can first be examined through the lens of what it does not do. The new economy does not accept the orthodox neoclassical theory that dominates economics: “Humans are perfectly rational, markets are perfectly efficient, institutions are optimally designed and economies are self-correcting equilibrium systems that invariably find a state that maximizes social welfare.”8
The concept of “new economy” functions as a platform for bringing into visibility the source of economic dysfunction. It is here that the contrast of these economic dysfunctionalities can be named and humanity comes into its own truth, its own reflection of its own finiteness, and the oncoming collision course with its own growth measurements and worldview. What is emerging is its own truth telling, a transformative shift, a great convergence— a time where everything is up for questioning: capitalism, economics, commerce, trade, finance, and global debt. Like encountering a double-headed sea serpent, we can run away in fear or we can stand in our own truth.
The new economy movement is a collective response that enhances the function of humanity itself. This means the collective recovery from the Industrial Age to address the effects of global colonization, the equity/growth dichotomy, the experience of competition in the capital markets, and the nature of capitalism itself. As articulated by Otto Scharmer, author of “Transforming Capitalism”: “Perhaps the term ‘new economy’ could be used more precisely to speak about transforming capitalism toward an economic system that generates well-being and prosperity for all.”9
Regeneration: The Great Convergence
Addressing the economic myth is directly linked to our collective understanding of the inheritance of worldview. The emerging realization that the current global economic system is fundamentally dysfunctional has framed and solidified the movement of the emerging nature of a regenerative economy. This new economy is calling toward its center a return to our humanity that is based on our human values.
The activation of these human values is establishing leading economic innovations, new relationships and connectivity, and ways of seeing economy through another worldview.
The new economy movement is based on the concept of the economic regeneration process as a return to wholeness, the lack of which has been inflicted through a worldview immersed in division and separateness. This new economy narrative is centered around a driving concept: “The universal patterns and principles the cosmos uses to build stable, healthy, and sustainable systems throughout the real world can and must be used as a model for economic-system design.”10 It questions the authenticity and authority of the “corporation,” challenging it to see itself as part of a bigger connected ecosystem and directly connected to nature. The irony cannot be lost that the word “corporation” originates from the word “incorporated” which means “embodied,” “collected,” or “united as a whole.” The Capital Institute argues what is needed now is a collective economic response:
A new systems-based mindset built around the idea of a regenerative economy, which recognizes that the proper functioning of complex wholes, like an economy, cannot be understood without the ongoing, dynamic relationships among parts that give rise to greater wholes. In practice, this might lead to close analysis of supply chains, investigations of the effects of water use, circular economy initiatives, community economic development work or a host of other sustainability efforts.11
Indigenomics serves to bring into visibility economic inequality, exclusion, the conditions of economic regression, and the underdevelopment of the Indigenous economy. Understanding the development of economic inclusion must play a central role in the emerging economy.
Economic Design for an Inclusive Economy
John Fullerton, in Regenerative Capitalism: How Universal Principles and Patterns Will Shape Our New Economy, writes: “The universal patterns and principles the cosmos uses to build stable, healthy, and sustainable systems throughout the real world can and must be used as a model for economic-system design.”12
The Indigenomics economic movement is an invitation to align economic practice with understanding how the universe and humanity interact. The function of the modern economy must address the myths, structures of economic exclusion, and invisibility of colonialism expressed as capitalism. In practice, this leads to closer analysis of resource use, circular economy initiatives, energy systems, inclusive collaborative community economic development work, and global sustainability efforts. This convergence toward holism brings economics into focus, its shortcomings and its shortsightedness.
In “Rethinking Prosperity: Exploring Alternatives to the Economic System,” Jo Confino pointedly notes: “The collective failure to reimagine another pathway results in focusing our intellectual power on trying to prop up the existing system, even though this is akin to putting a plaster on a gaping wound.”13 It is these new pathways that form the economic convergence of today’s economic design.
The Great Economic Convergence and the Transformation of Meaning
This is a time for the emerging landscape of economic transformation, a time of the great convergence! How many types of economies can we see emerging? The green economy! The circular economy! The sharing economy! The collaborative economy! The gift economy! The clean economy! The social economy! The impact economy! What are we converging upon? The characteristics of local economy and the new language of economy is shifting toward co-operation, sharing, reciprocity, collaboration, balance, harmony, co-existence, interconnection, sharing, and respect— the foundational values of humanity.
This great economic convergence of our time is a defining moment through the ages of humanity. Never in our history has there been this opportunity to redefine economy. The time is now. What a beautiful opportunity to redefine wealth! This is relational economics: an economy of connection, of relationship, of impact, and of the potential of humanity itself. This is the act of staring the doubleheaded sea serpent in the eye. As author and environmentalist Paul Hawken writes in Blessed Unrest:
Here in this emerging new economy is the collective call for accountability. It is here in the new economy where the very language of economy is being called to move beyond the constructs of supply and demand and the unyielding phenomenon of measurements and performance-based outcomes. This economic movement is a call to return to relationship based on impact. The new economy works to bring impact-driven solutions and serves to imagine the balance of values-led, purposedriven marketplace. It is this recalibration of the marketplace that can demonstrate new human gains and outcomes that achieve market-rate financial returns without entirely trading off on social good. It is here impact can be measured and relationality and accountability can be formed.14
In Indigenous reality, there is no externalization of the market, we are the market. This is Indigenomics. The central points of economic convergence are the redirecting of economics toward impact and meaning and the inclusion of wisdom of Indigenous economies which must shape the thinking that is required in the evolution of humanity’s economic modernity. The function of the modern economy must facilitate the transition toward seeing the world in a different way— the shift to an ecologically based economic worldview in which nature is the model.
“The regenerative process that defines thriving, living systems must define the economic system itself.”15 And while the concept is not exactly new to Indigenous Peoples, this is the transition, the transformation— this is the new economic model. This is Indigenomics.
An Economy of Meaning
In “An Economy of Meaning— or Bust!” John Boik establishes the concept of an “economy of meaning” as the space for new insight into the human experience of economy: “In short, ‘good’ economic systems must produce economies of meaning that help us to help one another live meaningful lives— to meet real needs and solve problems that matter.”16 While the world is falsely divided into characterizations of countries as “developed” or “undeveloped” or “first world” or “third world” economies, the concept of economy of meaning better provides the space for our human experience.
This experience of meaning is central to understanding the convergence of the Indigenous experience of “development” and meaning.
From within the Indigenous worldview, economy must connect to our experience of our humanity, of human development, of progess to meaning and to our livelihood. In shifting the narrative of the function of economy, Manfred Max-Neef boldly positions five key operating points of economy:
• The economy is to serve the people, not the people to serve the economy.
• Development is about people and not objects.
• Growth is not the same as development, and development doesn’t necessarily require growth.
• No economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.
• The economy is a sub-system of a larger finite system— the biosphere— hence permanent growth is impossible.17
Max-Neef’s work positions the formation of these economic operating points that serve to evolve the modern economy to be able to address global economic dysfunction and both establish new meaning in the experience of economy and serve to address real human needs. His work shines a bright light on the concept that “good” economic systems must produce economies of meaning that help us to help one another live meaningful lives— to meet real needs and solve problems that matter. He identifies nine categories of human need in the establishment of meaning within the experience economy: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom.18
This work is a light on the pathway toward aligning the human experience of economic meaning— an economy of relationships and connectivity formed on the deeper structures of the nature of reality and human values as a function of the new economy embedded within the natural world. This is relational economics.
Today, the function of modern economy must widen the boundaries of its existing limitations and reset the rules that connect the human experience of economy. Indigenomics focuses upon the pursuit of answering these questions: How can meaning be established beyond infinite growth that Indigenomics focuses upon? How can the separation of growth and resources be aligned? It is from this economy of meaning that the new economy is converging. An economy of meaning is a return to our human experience— this is Indigenomics. Drawing from the work of Nuu chah nulth scholar Richard Atleo:
Today, the experience of “things fall apart” has become a global phenomenon, particularly with respect to two crises: (1) humanities relationship with humanity; (2) humanity’s relationship with the environment. We are in a relationship crisis, a crisis of protocol, of relativity, connectivity stemming from a dominant global economic system— symptoms of its own worldview.19
There is much to be learned from within an Indigenous worldview as global economies struggle with accountability to themselves. Addressing the disconnect will require nothing less than a transformation of the dominating worldview of economy.
It’s not working! These economies that we know intuitively as Indigenous peoples we have inherited from our ancestors and through our ceremonies. These economies are increasingly becoming important as alternatives to today. Our ways of thinking and being is what allows us to be resilient as Indigenous peoples; these old ways honor our identities and our relationships to land, to each other, and to our territories. They honor our deep obligations we have to one another, and they also honor this kind of greater sense of belonging not only on planet Earth as a part of the cosmos. Indigenomics includes that level of thinking that we are not the only beings on the planet and that we belong within long lineages and lineages to come. What we do in this economic space is closely tied to the bigger picture of who we are today.20
This is the great convergence upon the collective human economic response— a return to relationships, to our humanity and connectivity, and to address the myth of separateness and isolation of nature from our current experience of economy. This is a time of a seismic shift, a quantum leap that points to the convergence that we as humanity are embarked upon through the emergence of modern economic meaning. Here is the intersecting space of Indigenomics, Indigenous worldview, colonialism, and economic–knowledge systems based in thousands of –years of relationship, connectivity, and human values.
This new economic space is opening up out of necessity from the failings of the current economic philosophies and paradigms. The systems we have in place are showing to be deeply flawed, and in many ways, they are not working for our societies; they are not working certainly for Indigenous communities. Because of these failings, there is an opening to look at other ways of being and knowing. What is required within this new economic space is an incredible opportunity to fill it in a way that is grounded with principles that are very old. At the same time, we can bring our relative energy and context of our world today in line with that of our ancestors.21
The underlying principles of these emerging economic constructs parallel Indigenous values and ways of being— at the core of which are human values and a remembering of how to be in relation to each other and to the Earth. What is being named here is a value set, an outline of purpose of how we can experience economy. This is the shift to connectivity, to local relationships, to the economy of meaning. This is the Great Convergence. This is Indigenomics.
Addressing the Economic Disconnect
Economic thinking is changing. “Economic ideas matter” is advanced by Eric Beinhocker in Evonomics: “The writings of Adam Smith over two centuries ago still influence how people in positions of power— in government, business, and the media— think about markets, regulation, the role of the state, and other economic issues today.”22
As humanity, we are facing a formidable economic challenge, he continues:
The economic challenge of today is to close the disconnect between infinite growth and finite resources. Today, in the course of a year, our planet uses the natural resources of 1.5 planets. Thus, the challenge is to reframe nature as an eco-system rather than a resource. Instead of treating nature’s gifts as commodities that we buy, use, and throw away, we must treat the natural world as a circular ecology that we need to cultivate and co-evolve with.23
What the great economic thinker Adam Smith did not account for was the growing climate pressures, resource pressures, crisis of capitalism itself, and the population demands of today that cannot be accounted for in the concept of the Invisible Hand. This is the disconnect. The human experience of economic disconnect has been and continues to be felt all over the world whether through poverty, displacement, climate change, or other ways. Perhaps, while peering into another worldview, the Nuu chah nulth peoples have accounted for the invisible hand in the concept of hiish uk ish tsa walk— everything is one and interconnected, which forms the basis for meaning, relationship, connectivity, and the protocol of life itself. This is the economy of meaning. This is relational economics. This is the invisible hand. This is Indigenomics.
Indigenomics is a contribution to a new world of thinking where economics, productivity, and prosperity are aligned with human values. It is the economy behind the economy— the values that spin the relationship between nature and human kind— the life force of intention. The concept of hish uk ish tsa walk— everything is one and interconnected— is the real invisible hand of the market place called Earth. Indigenomics is a return to the concept of marketplace that aligns humanity to economy— we are the marketplace.
Indigenomics is an economic platform to facilitate Indigenous economic inclusion: inclusion of worldview, inclusion with local economic development practices, and inclusion within the larger economy of this country. Indigenomics is an infiltration into the system of neoclassical economics that, as a singular approach to economics, relates supply and demand to a human rationality and the ability to maximize utility or profit. Indigenous economics is transforming our relationship to place— as central to innovation, and driving economic solutions through design, relationships, and connectedness. Productivity is centered in community design, ecosystem-based management systems of resources, and output is generational management of wealth.
Indigenomics as a concept that is centered within this slowed global economic growth. It serves to highlight the contrast between worldview, economic pace, and the polarization between economic performance of humans and the environment.
Indigenomics is the convergence of the concept of the interdependence and co-evolution of human economies and natural ecosystems over time and space. Is it possible economics is growing up?
Indigenomics is a platform to facilitate the Indigenous economic relationship to collectively reimagine the future we want and redesign the systems to get us there. The pervading question in Canada today that is setting the stage for the next 150 plus years is how do we collectively get ready for the emerging potential of a $100 billion annual Indigenous economy in Canada today? This is the convergence of today, of the applied new meaning of the Indigenous economy— we are a powerful people. Indigenomics is the landscape for economic transformation where economics and capitalism and Indigenous worldview collide. At the heart of the current global predicament of slowed growth and high conflict is a disconnect and breakdown between the realworld challenges of the widening ecological, social, material, and spiritual divide. The time is now to build a collective response to the current inquiry— to find out what is possible in the search for deeper economic meaning and the increasing relevance of the Indigenous worldview to the new economy.
Hiish uk ish tsa walk— everything is one and interconnected— this is the real invisible hand of Adam Smith. Hiiish uk ish tsa walk is the great ecological marketplace. This is nature’s household (ecology) and humankind’s household (economics).